YMCA Europe’s new President

Date: 23 November 2020

Emma Osmundsen (YMCA England and Wales) was elected as President of YMCA Europe on Friday 20 November 2020, succeeding outgoing President Mike Will (YMCA Scotland).

Quoting US Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, Osmundsen said, “I may be the first woman in this role, but I will not be the last”. She cited Patricia Pelton as the first woman President of World YMCA, and said how her roots in the Girl Guide Movement bequeathed her the preparedness with which she takes up the YMCA Europe role.

“We are 4,100 local YMCA branches in Europe, reaching over 2 million people a year”, she said, “inspiring, uniting, and creating space for young people”. She set out a vision based on Relevance, Representation, Relationship and Resilience, and – quoting St John’s Gospel (chapter 10, verse 10) called on the YMCA to be “life-givers, Ministers of Life”.

The meeting began with tributes in memory of former YMCA Change Agent Nina Hustedova.

The General Assembly received messages from Themis Christophidou, Director General in the European Commission for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport, and Joe Elborn, President of the European Youth Forum.

Christophidou pointed to the links between YMCA Europe and the European Solidarity Crops, and Elborn underlined the importance of the youth voice being heard in three great societal debates around climate, digitisation and the economy.  “I believe it is in Europe that the youth voice can best be heard”, he said.

World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee also addressed the meeting, asking the European Area Alliance to continue to play its part in global YMCA initiatives to modernise governance, promote collective identity and purpose, and embrace reform.  He stressed the importance of alignment and the avoidance of duplication, in matters of finance as much as strategy. “We must know ‘the Why of the Y’”, he said. “We are a Movement, not an institution.”

Mike Will shared the leadership theology which has informed his 4-year tenure as YMCA Europe President. Commenting on Mike Will’s Presidency, Juan Simoes praised a level of cooperation with World YMCA ‘like never before’, a theme taken up by Emma Osmundsen.

Juan Simoes, Secretary-General, set out the year’s achievements, which included three campaigns  (Stay Safe on Covid-19, ‘Young People Matter, and #YMCA4Peace around the International Fay of Peace) and a new edition of the ‘Roots for Peace’ programme, ‘Generation Next’, with a grant for Euro 200,000. The initial 2020 accounts were presented and the 2021 budget approved.

The YMCA Europe report in its General Assembly is here.